Still all quiet on the job front. At first, I was really gung ho about not letting the unemployment blues get me down. I applied for jobs every day, made sure my resume was updated and error-free. I even emailed certain companies asking why they decided not to select me for an interview when I felt I had the qualifications and that I was genuinely interested for any constructive criticism they could provide me about my resume. No response. I did yoga to help keep me active and mentally grounded. And yes, it’s only been two months (exactly two months to the day) that I’ve been fired.
I always thought I was the type of person not to easily give up in the face of adversity, but that’s not entirely true. Half of me almost always wants to give up when I’m faced with one of life’s many obstacles. After all, I left New York City because I lost my job and wasn’t able to carve out a semblance of a romantic life (one night stands don’t count). Of the usual things about New York that people always complain about were true in my case too. (You can only sustain the pace of intense living for so long, tiny apartments are super expensive, etc).
And now I want to leave Austin. I tell myself it’s because I don’t like the fact that you have to drive everywhere and I find that it’s hard to make friends in this city (which, true). Really, it’s because I lost my job and haven’t really been able to make my life work here after six years either. I have a boyfriend, but both of us have acknowledged we can’t do much for each other except work on ourselves (I’m unemployed, he’s underemployed). I love him and I know he loves me and we’ve managed to make things work under a very difficult situation. He’s a big part of the reason I didn’t pack up long ago. He’s the reason I hope I can make it work here.
Of course, I’m lucky. I have friends and family I can move back in with if I can’t find a job by the end of my lease in late July. As someone who lived in a foreign country when she was 17, who has lived on her own for most of her adult life, the very real possibility of moving back home in my mid 30s is a hard pill to swallow. I have the security of knowing I won’t be living on the street or in my car and that’s something I don’t take for granted.
I have fantasies of some magical event or person coming to rescue me from a life filled with a never ending cycle of occupational drudgery followed by unceremonious termination living a humdrum existence in a second-tier city. The other half of me knows that no such event or person exists, the only person who rescue me from said occupational drudgery and humdrum existence is me and I’m not up to the task of rescuing myself from my own life right now.
Man, I’m not very good at sticking to self-imposed deadlines. I promised myself I would post another documentary review yesterday, but Frontline docs are a difficult watch and too important to not give my full attention and care as a writer. So today’s post will be kinda all over the place, because I want to write something, even if I don’t have a neatly presented topic.
It’s been a little over a month since I’ve been unemployed. The truth is that I wrote those posts about how to beat the unemployment blues just as much for me as I did for the blogosphere.
April was a hard month for me. I leaned on bad habits more than I practiced good ones. I tried to handle too much on my own and didn’t ask for help when I needed it. I got depressed and didn’t leave my apartment for days. Sometimes I drank too much, some times I ate shitty salty take out that made me feel fat and gave my body image issues the voice to tell me that I’m fat, unsexy, a loser who will never get a job and who will die an unemployed and useless mess.
And you know what? That’s OK. I accept that I’m going to have good days and bad days and that won’t change once I get a job. I just have more time to hang out with the depression and anxiety that’s always been there. Once I finish applying for jobs, I’m alone with my thoughts for the rest of the day. I’m slowly learning how to not view that as a punishment.
Then there are days like today. Days where I get up and do yoga and talk to my Dad for three hours and celebrate my cat’s birthday, who has outlived his shortened (due to feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus) life span by three years. My cat, who is the closest thing I will ever have (or want) to a child, makes me laugh by stealing things from my purse and putting them in his bed. He gives me hugs when I’ve had a bad day and reminds me how beautiful unconditional love really is. I have family and friends who love me, even if they are thousands of miles away and we don’t get to talk as often as we’d like or say everything we want to say. I have a cute apartment in a safe neighborhood. A park within walking distance where I can appreciate nature anytime I want. I have a relationship that while sometimes frustrating, is filled with love and common ground, even when it seems like the whole world is against us. I get to sit down and write this post, be real, share authentically, and participate in creative expression, which is one of the most important things in the world. Today is not about positive thoughts or affirmation or even happiness. Today is about simple gratitude, even when life is not perfect.
Ah, being unemployed, I know it so well. It can be hard to keep your sanity after days in your pajamas, endless Netflix marathons and job searches to nowhere. Here’s a list of the things that can help keep you sane during temporary periods of unemployment.
All those self-assessment or career quizzes you used to take at your last boring job will now be useful. You can go nuts without worrying about your micromanaging boss looking over your shoulder while you take that “Should I quit my job” quiz. Take notes and see if you can spot any patterns (e.g. it looks like 5 out of the 8 quizzes I took say I should be a social worker, I should look into that). For the purposes of this exercise, forget about salary or how realistic it is. What are your talents do you have and how can you use them to make your community a better place? This doesn’t necessarily mean non-profit. Perhaps you are a math whiz and would make a killer accountant. Maybe your number skills and ability to paperwork like a boss would help clients solve their most daunting tax problems.
Write down a list of values that are important to you. Think about what news stories really affect you. What makes you angry? What makes you happy? What problems do you wish you could help solve? There’s usually at least a couple of interests or concerns that jump out at you. For me, I always come back to writing and humanitarian/non profit work. I still haven’t been able to narrow down a specific job title, but even unemployed, I’m a lot closer to my ideal career than I was ten years ago because a) more job experience and b) As a thirtysomething, I’m much more honest about the type of person I really am and what type of jobs I’m realistically suited for.
Are there any occupational dealbreakers for you? Is working in a cubicle your idea of hell? Do you need an environment where people socialize heavily after work? Does the idea of massive overtime make you want to commit hara-kari? For me, I absolutely can’t deal with any kind of micromanaging and have been happiest at jobs where I was given the most independence. Any job comes with its share of shit. Take the job where you have to eat the least amount of it.
Polish and proofread that resume. Make sure your address, phone number, and email are all up-to-date. Remove any information that isn’t relevant to the next job you are going after. Make sure your past job titles are correct and really reflect what you accomplished. You’d be surprised out how much irrelevant and inaccurate information you leave on your resume while your employed and job searching isn’t a primary concern.
Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. At first, it can be difficult to resist the lure of staying until 2 a.m. to catch up on Game of Thrones and sleeping until 11 a.m., but that only perpetuates the aimlessness you often feel while unemployed. While staying up late and sleeping in occasionally is OK, waking up and going to bed at the same time will give you a sense of structure. Bonus: Establishing a regular sleep schedule makes it easier to go bed and wake without sleeping aids and alarm clocks. Think of how much more energy you’ll have once you’re gainfully employed again!
Keep your place clean. It’s hard to feel good about yourself when you let the dishes pile up in the sink and let the toothpaste harden on your bathroom counter. Keeping an orderly environment will keep up a professional mindset.
Get therapy. Getting fired or let go is a kind of grieving process and one of the ways you can deal with your grief in a healthy way is to seek professional help. Therapy can be expensive but chances are there are at least a few mental health professionals that can work with you on a sliding scale.
Exercise. Even if it’s just once a week. It’s still one less day of couch surfing and eating takeout. Active body, active mind. It’s easy to slip into bad habits like not leaving your apartment all day or drinking more than you normally would. The goal is not to beat yourself up for having those bad habits, it’s to gradually replace them with good ones (this advice applies for the employed as well as the unemployed).
Give yourself a block of time devoted to just searching for jobs. I’m somewhat of a morning person after years of waking up at 6 a.m. to 7 a.m, so I tend to search for jobs in the morning and finish around 1 p.m. If you’re more of a night owl, start your search after lunch and finish in the early evening. Your job now is to search for a job, so structure is important. There will be days where searching for jobs seems too daunting, so if you need a mental health break, take one. It’s better to fill out job applications and send resumes confidently than to do a robotic job search just because.
Reconnect with family and friends. This is a great opportunity to remind yourself that you are loved and connected to a world bigger than work. It could also mean networking opportunities. Sometimes someone knows someone who knows someone who works at your dream company and can help get your foot in the door.